7.3/10
5,538
47 user 38 critic

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Not Rated | | Biography, Drama | 2 October 1937 (USA)
The biopic of the famous French muckraking writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfuss Affair.

Director:

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play) | 4 more credits »
Reviews

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

ON DISC
Won 3 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Biography | Drama | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

The ups and downs of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., famed producer of extravagant stage revues, are portrayed.

Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Stars: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer
Cimarron (1931)
Certificate: Passed Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

A newspaper editor settles in an Oklahoma boom town with his reluctant wife at the end of the nineteenth century.

Director: Wesley Ruggles
Stars: Richard Dix, Irene Dunne, Estelle Taylor
Cavalcade (1933)
Certificate: Passed Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

A cavalcade of English life from New Year's Eve 1899 until 1933 seen through the eyes of well-to-do Londoners Jane and Robert Marryot. Amongst events touching their family are the Boer War,... See full summary »

Director: Frank Lloyd
Stars: Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O'Connor
Certificate: Passed Drama | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A pair of sisters from the vaudeville circuit try to make it big time on Broadway, but matters of the heart complicate the attempt.

Director: Harry Beaumont
Stars: Bessie Love, Anita Page, Charles King
Going My Way (1944)
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Father Charles O'Mailey, a young priest at a financially failing Church in a tough neighborhood, gains support and inspires his superior.

Director: Leo McCarey
Stars: Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh
Adventure | Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Midshipman Roger Byam joins Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian aboard HMS Bounty for a voyage to Tahiti. Bligh proves to be a brutal tyrant and, after six pleasant months on Tahiti, ... See full summary »

Director: Frank Lloyd
Stars: Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone
Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

The rise and fall of a corrupt politician, who makes his friends richer and retains power by dint of a populist appeal.

Director: Robert Rossen
Stars: Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Joanne Dru
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A man from a family of rich snobs becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.

Director: Frank Capra
Stars: Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore
Grand Hotel I (1932)
Certificate: Passed Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A group of very different individuals staying at a luxurious hotel in Berlin deal with each of their respective dramas.

Director: Edmund Goulding
Stars: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A British family struggles to survive the first months of World War II.

Director: William Wyler
Stars: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A reporter pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism, and personally discovers the true depths of bigotry and hatred.

Director: Elia Kazan
Stars: Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield
Wings (1927)
Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Two young men, one rich, one middle class, who are in love with the same woman, become fighter pilots in World War I.

Directors: William A. Wellman, Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast
Stars: Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Richard Arlen
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
Erin O'Brien-Moore ...
Nana (as Erin O'Brien Moore)
...
Charpentier
...
Morris Carnovsky ...
...
...
Commander of Paris
...
...
...
...
Edit

Storyline

Fictionalized account of the life of famed French author Emile Zola. As portrayed in the film, he was a penniless writer sharing an apartment in Paris with painter Paul Cezanne when he finally wrote a best-seller, Nana. He has always had difficulty holding onto a job as he is quite outspoken, being warned on several occasions by the public prosecutor that he risks charges if he does not temper his writings. The bulk of the film deals with his involvement in the case of Captain Alfred Dreyfus who was falsely convicted of giving secret military information to the Germans and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devils Island. Antisemitism played an important role in the real-life case but is hardly mentioned in the film. Even after the military found definitive evidence that Dreyfus was innocent, the army decided to cover it up rather than face the scandal of having arbitrarily convicted the wrong man. Zola's famous letter, J'Accuse (I Accuse), led to his own trial for libel where he was ... Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Here Is True Greatness ! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

2 October 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Emile Zolas liv  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Paul Muni's finest moment in the film is probably the famous six minute courtroom speech. He had to do multiple takes of this crucial scene. Upon completion, he received a standing ovation from the cast and crew. See more »

Goofs

The lettering on the door to Clemenceau's office at the newspaper misspells his first name "George" instead of the correct French spelling, "Georges". See more »

Quotes

Émile Zola: Why didn't Picquart say anything?
Lucie Dreyfus: Colonel Picquart is a good officer. He kept silent at the request of his superiors.
Émile Zola: You mean they KNEW and they ordered him to suppress the truth? Why,that's monstrous!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Tales from the Warner Bros. Lot (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

La Marseillaise
(1792) (uncredited)
Written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Variations often in the score
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA (William Dieterle, 1937) ***1/2
23 August 2006 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Of Paul Muni's three biographical films made at Warner Bros. and directed by William Dieterle (the others were THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR [1936] and JUAREZ [1939]), this was the only one which had never been shown on TV in my neck of the woods; ironically, it was the first to make it to DVD - but, then again, it is the most highly-regarded of them! Still, given the film's reputation (Best Picture Oscar Winner, Leonard Maltin rates it **** in his "Movies & Video Guide"), I somehow expected a masterpiece - but, personally, I feel that Dieterle's THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941) and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939) are greater achievements. Even so, it's been sometime since I watched a vintage old-style Hollywood film; of late, I've mostly been concentrating on Euro-Cult and World Cinema stuff - but, really, there's no beating the professionalism and sheer entertainment value of a product from the cinema's Golden Age!

The film strikes a good balance between Zola's literary career and his struggles for social justice: the latter is mostly devoted to the Dreyfus affair, a veritable cause celebre at the time (cinematically treated two more times in DREYFUS [1931] and I ACCUSE [1958], neither of which I've watched though the latter had turned up some years back on late-night Italian TV!), culminating in one of the finest courtroom scenes ever filmed. Production values are top-notch, the Oscar-winning script appropriately literate (though the constant speechifying and the film's two-hour length - by contrast, LOUIS PASTEUR had been less than 90 minutes but, then, the epic and star-studded JUAREZ was longer still

  • make for a somewhat heavy-going experience) and Dieterle's handling
virtually impeccable; the only unpersuasive aspect, perhaps, is the one-dimensional portrayal of the corrupt French military who callously sent Dreyfus to Devil's Island for treason, and left him there to rot for years - even after they had found absolute proof of his innocence, because that would have meant admitting to a mistake!

The cast is filled with wonderful characters actors whose familiarity - and reliability - allows utmost audience involvement every step of the way, despite Hollywood's typically idealized viewing of events. Best of all, naturally, are Muni as Zola (simply brilliant, especially during his show-stopping speech at the trial, and who even ages convincingly!) and Schildkraut (a touching Dreyfus who, in spite of his relatively brief appearance, managed to walk off with the Best Supporting Actor Oscar - though, personally, I would have voted for H.B. Warner in LOST HORIZON [1937]!).

Unfortunately, the audio level on Warner's otherwise exemplary DVD is rather low; the supplements include three vintage shorts (described in more detail below), as well as the full 1-hour broadcast of a radio adaptation of the script (obviously compressed but also including some minor additions) - presented by Leslie Howard (who, at the end, even interviews William Dieterle!) and featuring Muni himself, accompanied by Josephine Hutchinson (stepping in for Gloria Holden, who had played Zola's wife in the film).


9 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?